"How are you? How are things going?"
"Busy! Yeah - things are really busy. And with you?"
"Busy as well. Things are hectic at the moment."
A few days ago - it dawned on me that whenever someone asks me how I am - I reply with the shockingly empty statement that I am busy. Every single time. Without fail - that is my default response - even though it's a completely meaningless reply. So I want to tackle the root of this response. Why do I respond like that to everyone?
Let me get right to the point. Truthfully - it's a humble brag about my life. There it is. Laziness has been villainised in every sense of the word for a long time - and for good reason, I believe. By marginalising it - it motivated people to create things and work on projects and push our society forward using social pressure. The Industrial Revolution and the era following espoused the values of consistent hard work. This worked because in that era - what you put in was directly attributable to what you got out in the end. Laziness was a sign of apathy - a characteristic not appreciated, nor valuable. Things were simple. You get out what you put in. Therefore, the busier you were - the better the results on the other side. Win-Win.
As a side-effect of that - being busy became a badge of honour. In our minds, consciously or sub-consciously, being busy means that you are important, that you are popular, that your time is valuable, that you have lots of things going your way. It is a status symbol. The reason that I tell people I'm busy is because I want to portray those characteristics. It's the same reason that people complain about how long their working hours are, or how tough that last all-nighter was, or how sore their body is after gym. It's to subtly (not so much) brag about how hard they are working - implying how important they are.
It's a measure of self-worth. And that scares me.
Whether I am busy or not - is irrelevant. Why do I judge myself on how 'busy' I am? Why is that the deciding factor?
Because - if it is the deciding factor - then life is pretty easy. There are tons of things you could fill your day with to become 'busy' which gives you the ammunition needed in order to complain to your friends and family. These things are taken on willingly, so that you have reason to say that you're busy. Anyone can do that. We are overwhelmed by the amount of possibilities out there today. Being busy couldn't be easier.
However, as I am sure my tone implies, that's naive. Being busy is an empty statement - void of any actual substance. What really matters in this world is - are you doing the right things? In your 24 hours, what are you focusing on? What is driving you forward? Time is way more complicated now than it was just a few decades ago. The amount of distractions and time-vacuums has changed the paradigm. It's no longer a simple linear formula of what you get in you must get out. Rather, sometimes too much effort is a bad thing - it comes at the detriment of the greater goal. The number of options available to us - leave is in desperate need of strategic thinking. The ones who get this right and focus on the activities, tasks and pursuits that really move the needle - are the ones who succeed.
Now I don't know what those are - or even how to suggest finding them. That's for your and my own personal self-discovery. We've got to find those things on our own. What I am saying though - is let's fight this belief that being 'busy' is a badge that we should wear with pride. Telling people that we are busy is cowardly. Let's rather tell them about the new passion project we started, or how we really feel emotionally, or about the great movie we saw on the weekend. We need to stop looking for sympathy relating to our own lifestyle (which we have created). If you don't like it - change it. It shouldn't be our friends and family's responsibility to feign empathy for a your week-full of nonsense. Whether you are actually busy or not is irrelevant. Let's stop wearing it like a medal.
I want you as a reader to call me out on this. If I respond saying that I am busy - I want you to slap me across the face. That's how I'll learn.